We have been in our office for a little over a year and nearly every person who walks through the door comments on how much they love our space. Maybe it’s the different areas we have set up for small groups to work. Maybe it’s the pew we have sitting just across from the door. Maybe it’s the relaxing colors on the walls or the many windows. Maybe it’s us.

I know that one of the things we do really well is create space for individuals and groups to come together and work – to make a decision, to have conversations that they’ve needed to have for a long time but never had the opportunity. Some people call these meetings, but we believe that the work we do and how we pay attention to the space is more than a meeting – it’s really a gathering.

So, what do we do that your organization could do to turn your meetings into gatherings?

  1. We greet every single person who comes in. Not just a hello, but we ask them about their day, their kids, their work … not just to start conversation, but because we really do care. In a time when everything seems to be moving at lightening speed, we believe that people are desperately looking for connection and that they want to be heard.
  2. We always feed our guests. Coffee, tea, Diet Coke, Fresca, sparking water, bowls of nuts, carrots and hummus, fruit, yogurt – our fridge is always stocked with a variety of snacks (mostly healthy!). If we know someone has a favorite beverage or snack, we try to make sure they have it when they come to our office. People appreciate that you’ve taken the time to think about their needs.
  3. We invite people to introduce themselves. If the group has been working together for a long time, we will sometimes put some of our favorite quotes in a bowl and ask each person to read one to set the stage for the work.
  4. We try to arrange the space so that everyone can see everyone else around the table. When decisions need to be made or tough conversations need to be had, you should be able to look at each other in the eye and make a connection.
  5. We have an agenda for each meeting. Each meeting has goals and each goal has a purpose. If there is no purpose, don’t put it on the agenda.
  6. If we’re working with a new client, we often start by watching Simon Sinek’s TED Talk (Link: http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html). If you haven’t seen it, it’s 18 minutes and I encourage you to watch. At the end of the video, we hand out a piece of paper that asks everyone to reflect on this: “I get up every morning to do this work because,” or “At a deep level I work at (insert company name) because….” We then go around the room and ask each person to share their response. Connecting your group on a deep personal level allows the participants to see each other in a different light. They will get a deeper understanding of where that person is coming from and you will find strong connections among the group. We haven’t found a group yet that hasn’t found this enormously powerful.
  7. We do not run over our allotted meeting time. On our internal agenda, we typically plan to end 15-20 minutes early. People appreciate that you respect their time. If you end up needing that “extra” 15-20 minutes, you’re still done at the expected time.

You have something in common with every person around that table: you’re all human. You’ll get more accomplished if you intentionally create a space for your gathering that allows people to be comfortably who they are.